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‘This has not been business as usual in my country’: excerpts from Saudi journalist Khashoggi’s writings

Updated October 08, 2018

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Protesters gather in Istanbul to demand the whereabouts of Jamal Khashoggi. — AFP
Protesters gather in Istanbul to demand the whereabouts of Jamal Khashoggi. — AFP

DUBAI: Turkish authorities believe Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside his country’s consulate in Istanbul last week, Turkish sources said, in what they described as the deliberate targeting of a prominent critic of the Gulf kingdom’s rulers.

As a journalist, he interviewed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden several times in Afghanistan and Sudan, and served twice as editor of Al Watan newspaper.

Khashoggi gained a wide following with his appearances on Arab satellite television networks.

A consummate insider, he advised Prince Turki al-Faisal, former Saudi intelligence chief, and has also been close to billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.

A year ago, Khashoggi left Saudi Arabia after he said the authorities had instructed him to stop tweeting.

In his columns in The Washington Post, Khashoggi had been escalating his criticism of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: accusing him of repressing the Saudi people, creating a mess in Lebanon and prosecuting a cruel war in Yemen.

Here are excerpts from his writings in The Washington Post:

“It anguishes me to speak with other Saudi friends in Istanbul and London who are also in self-exile. There are at least seven of us, are we going to be the core of a Saudi diaspora? We spend endless hours on the phone trying to understand this wave of arrests that have included my friend, businessman and thoughtful Twitter personality Essam Al-Zamil. It was just last Tuesday that he returned home from the United States, having been part of an official Saudi delegation. That is how breathtakingly fast you can fall out of favour with Saudi Arabia. It is all quite shocking. But this has not been business as usual in my country.”

‘Saudi Arabia Wasn’t Always This Repressive. Now it’s Unbearable’, Sep 18, 2017

“As of now, I would say Mohammed bin Salman is acting like Putin. He is imposing very selective justice. The crackdown on even the most constructive criticism the demand for complete loyalty with a significant “or else” remains a serious challenge to the crown prince’s desire to be seen as a modern, enlightened leader. Mohammed bin Salman rather famously bought a $500 million yacht in 2015. Rumours rippled across the kingdom of other extravagances. The buck stops at the leader’s door. He is not above the standard he is now setting for the rest of his family, and for the country.”

‘Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince is Acting like Putin’, Nov 5, 2017

“As if we Arabs need another crisis in our shattered world but that’s exactly what’s coming after the mysterious resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri from Riyadh last Saturday and declarations from the Saudi royal court that Iran has officially crossed a red line. The impulsivity of MBS has been a consistent theme from the war in Yemen to the wave of arrests of constructive critics, royals and senior officials accused of corruption. The severity of Saudi Arabia’s action against Lebanon mirrors the blockade of Qatar in June abrupt, with no room for negotiation.”

‘Saudi Arabia Is Creating a Total Mess in Lebanon’, Nov 13, 2017

“Indeed, many Saudis must find it contradictory for their media to hail Iranians protesting price increases in Iran, while Saudis are banned from protesting the approximately doubled cost of fuel and the introduction of a sales tax for the first time in the country [which took effect Jan 1]. Just last week, Salih Shehi, a prominent columnist, was arrested for appearing on TV and defending the people’s right to object. Ironically, these protests may well overlap with the seventh anniversary of the Jan 25 Egyptian revolution that changed the face of the Arab world. Perhaps Arabs and Saudis will dare to say that they also want some of that Iranian freedom.”

‘Why Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Should be Worried about Iran’s Protests’, Jan 3, 2018

“MBS’s downsizing and relative humbling of the House of Saud is welcome news. But maybe he should learn from the British royal house that has earned true stature, respect and success by trying a little humility himself. If MBS can listen to his critics and acknowledge that they, too, love their country, he can actually enhance his power.”

‘What Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Can Learn from Queen Elizabeth II’, Feb 28, 2018

“Instead of lashing out at Canada, shouldn’t we ask why peace-loving Canada has turned against us? We, Saudi citizens, need to see the bigger picture. Canada raised the flag against human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia. Surely, we cannot arbitrarily arrest female activists and expect the world to turn a blind eye.”

‘Saudi Arabia Cannot Afford to Pick Fights with Canada’, Aug 7, 2018

“The longer this cruel war lasts in Yemen, the more permanent the damage will be. The people of Yemen will be busy fighting poverty, cholera and water scarcity and rebuilding their country. The crown prince must bring an end to the violence and restore the dignity of the birthplace of Islam.”

‘Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Must Restore Dignity to His Country by Ending Yemen’s Cruel War’, Sep 11, 2018.

Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2018